The communications and hitech worlds are so malign now – the truth so ethereally difficult to lasso – that everyone tends to get shoved into the same pigeon hole as (variously) fearmonger, hate spreader, non-violent extremist, Remainer, Leaver, goldbug, fascist and all the rest of the twisted linguistics that tell us we shall be crashing out, or sailing forth in fine weather.
Far from lessening the ageless (and probably insoluble) problem of bigotry and stereotyping, the destruction of Truth via instant comms technology has added to it. You can smear anyone and anything today, but the chances of it being revealed as perniciously mendacious are hugely outnumbered by the hordes of deadheads out there who will tweet, email, bookface, brief, leak, message, Gram instantly and YouTube to turn a jet black lie into an angelically white beacon of light.
Up is indeed down, out is in, left is right, right is wrong, huge is miniscule and Brexit is Remain in 2019.
But one of the words that has, perhaps beyond any other, changed its emphasis of multivariate use over the last thirty years is ‘interest’. Allow me to explain.
In the past, you could be interested in something, you could get interest on a sum of capital, you could have an area of specialist interest….or you could have a commercial interest in something. The last of these was by by far the most obscure.
But now, interests are discouraged on the basis of “not being on the syllabus”. Since QE and Zirp came in, nobody gets worthwhile interest on capital without breaking the law. Dumbed further education means that “specialist” interest can be claimed without offering valid evidence.
Today, having a politico-economic interest it is just about the only meaning that is of relevance to a journalist looking for the provenance of a story: does it have a basis in fact, or is it a fairy tale? Cui bono….who benefits?
Tonight on Sky News, the series of local What the People Think sessions has been continuing. Earlier this year, Sky got up a petition to make televised debates obligatory. They have also been active in hyping the importance of the very televised Commons debates that are achieving little or nothing.
Sky is depicting what people say locally on the basis of samples of 24, and comparing them to national samples running into the thousands. Suggesting local difference on the basis of those wildly varying sample bases is a nonsense, in that the sampling errors make the whole exercise completely unscientific.
Sky is a television contractor whose business model is based on programme ratings and sponsorship. It has a commercial interest in popularising a Brexit debate….whereas the national interest is in the debate being over, and functionaries simply making Brexit happen as smoothly as possible. Sky’s excuse is to say that this is in the public interest.
See what I mean about the word ‘interest’?
Our world is choc-a-bloc with people claiming motivations that cover up the desire for self-interest. The media, the bureaucracy, business, the banks, security services, the military and lobbied politicians are all at it.
Ultimately, every citizen who seriously wants to avoid the worst aspects of the gathering storm is going to have to approach every issue on the basis of asking, “Why do you say this, and what is your interest in lying to me?”